A Thousand And One Nights

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2/5/2007
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Twenty-two-year-old Karla is thrilled to be hired as an entertainer on the Sound of Music cruise ship where the rum punch is 80 percent Kool-Aid, the ice sculp- tures are plastic, and her "fake it till you make it" M.O. seems adventuresome. Karla is less thrilled when her new boyfriend, Jack, suggests that they form a singing duo on land, but by now faking enthusiasm has become a way of life. She and Jack buy backing tracks, crib lyrics from the radio, and embark on a not-as-glamorous-as-it-should-be career performing in the luxury hotel bars of the Middle East and China. But after a thousand and one nights on the road, Karla and Jack find themselves struggling to keep their act both personal and professional together. Funny, fast-paced, and incisive, A Thousand and One Nights captures the performances, large and small, we use to make it through life.

Author Biography

LARA TUPPER received an MFA from Warren Wilson College and teaches writing at Rutgers University. This is her first book. She lives in New York.


ONERodgers and HammersteinIT STARTED ON A CRUISE SHIP, where nothing was exactly real. The brass railings of the lobby staircase were molded industrial plastic, liberally coated with copper-colored paint. The ships largest funnel, visible from up to ten nautical miles, bore the company insignia in gleaming white and blue; it led nowhere, funneled nothing. The pool, deemed refreshing in the travel agent brochure, was waist-deep, heavily chlorinated, and too cold even for children. In a pinch, plastic ice sculptures were used for the Midnight Buffet. Stored in freezers and splashed with ice water to simulate melting drips, the statuettes (dolphin, starfish, palm tree) were appropriately cold to the touch. The slot machines were fixed to a timer; the bingo numbers were decided well in advance of the daily call. The rum punch was 80 percent Kool-Aid. And the surly pop duo in the Tally-Ho Lounge played to synthesized backing tracks.AT THE TIME OF her Boston audition for Dancers Who Sing and Singers Who Move Well, Karla, who considered herself the latter, was three months out of music school and still living with her college roommate in Somerville, Massachusetts. The summer run of temping and tryouts had been humbling, until the cruise ship auditions began. The cruise reps seemed to care less about Karlas dance experience and more about her people skills. They asked if shed ever worked in the service industry, and Karla certainly had. Her three summers as Head Waitress at Cabbage Island Clambakes were suddenly three summers well spent.Karla got a callback, her first ever, and then another. She had to give a quiz to imaginary poolside guests, using a microphone. She had to lead her fellow auditionees in an impromptu aerobics class. She had to fend off an angry passenger, played by the choreographer, who demanded a pillow made of goose down rather than foam.She got it. She would be an Entertainer, according to her contract. She was hired to sing and dance and travelshe was going to be paid for this. She was twenty-two years old.As it turned out, and as she might have guessed from the audition, Karla was required to sing and dance at night and to host Ping-Pong and Shuffleboard tournaments during the day. She didnt actually know how to keep score for Ping-Pong, but the passengers were drunk, merry, forgiving. Their first cruise! Karla usually nominated a teenage boy to keep track, and then gave him a rum punch as reward. It was that kind of ship: bang for the buck, affordable for families, nothing too exotic in the way of itinerariesMediterranean in the summer, Caribbean in the winter. It was a British cruise line, and she was the only American to accept the contract. The main show, Hound Doggin, a thinly veiled Grease, required at least one genuine American accent. The showstopper was an ensemble number set to Baby You Can Drive My Car.Karla had to wake early in her tiny cabin (an inside room, no porthole, shared with Holly, the Second Female Vo

Excerpted from A Thousand and One Nights by Lara Tupper
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